Kamikatsu is small town in Tokushima Prefecture that is aiming to become the first zero-waste community in Japan by 2020.

Since 2003, the town of around 1,700 people has been working towards this goal, and is already currently recycling, re-using and composting 80% of all waste — an impressive feat considering the strict guidelines for disposing of waste that the town has imposed; all household rubbish is sorted into an almost unbelievable 34 categories by residents.

What inspired this drastic change in the town’s approach? In 2003, Kamikatsu announced its zero-waste plans after the town put a stop to the practice of dumping trash into an open incinerator for fear of putting at risk both the local environment and the residents.

For us Tokyoites, it’s no surprise to hear that Japan has buckled down on recycling of late, with most local wards requiring at least some careful separation of rubbish. City Lab reports that “businesses are required by law to recycle, and the country’s sorting systems are among the most extensive in the world.” For example, in Yokohama (with a population of 3.7 million) “citizens are given a 27-page manual on how to sort more than 500 different items.”

The Seeker Network have produced a short documentary that delves a little further into the approach of Kamikatsu:


–Chris Zajko